CHICAGO (AP) — Jurors deliberating for a second day in the trial of white supremacist Matthew Hale asked the judge Friday to clarify what constitutes murder solicitation, a question that goes to the heart of the government’s most serious charges against him.
Prosecutors say Hale solicited two men to kill U.S. District Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow after she ordered him to stop using the name World Church of the Creator for his white supremacist group.
Hale’s attorneys argue that he never solicited anyone to kill Lefkow and that the FBI planted a mole to try to entrap Hale in a murder plot.
Hale, 32, is charged with two counts of murder solicitation and three counts of obstruction of justice. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
In a note to the judge Friday, the jury asked for clarification about what constitutes solicitation. The note referred to Tony Evola, Hale’s former bodyguard who was also an FBI informant, who prosecutors say Hale solicited to have Lefkow killed.
The original instructions to the jury said that the government must prove two propositions beyond a reasonable doubt for Hale to be found guilty of murder solicitation:
– First, that the defendant, with strongly corroborative circumstances, intended for Tony Evola to engage in conduct constituting a felony that involved the use, attempted use or threatened use of physical force against Judge Joan H. Lefkow.
– Second, that the defendant solicited, commanded, induced or otherwise endeavored to persuade Tony Evola to engage in that conduct.
The jurors wanted to know if they needed to find beyond a reasonable doubt only one of those actions in the second proposition or all of them.
“For example, if we believe the government proved that Matt Hale induced Tony Evola, does that satisfy the proposition?” they asked.
The judge said he would send a written response telling jurors they were not required to prove all four points but must unanimously agree on at least one of those four.
On Thursday, the jury had asked to see a letter Hale had written to Lefkow and a transcript of testimony of former Hale follower Jon Fox.
In the December 2002 letter, Hale had told Lefkow he was complying with her order issued a few weeks earlier to stop using the name World Church of the Creator in connection with his white supremacist group. An Oregon-based religious group, TE-TA-MA Truth Foundation — Family of URI Inc, which holds the trademark to the phrase and disavows Hale’s views, had filed a trademark infringement lawsuit.
Shortly after Hale wrote that letter, however, federal agents reported finding written material in Hale’s East Peoria home that used the words World Church of the Creator.
Chief defense counsel Thomas Anthony Durkin argued in court that there was no way to prove Hale had the materials in his possession when he wrote the letter to Lefkow.
Fox, a former Hale follower and now a 44-year-old North Dakota farm worker, testified that Hale had asked him if he or anyone he knew could kill the judge and attorneys involved in the lawsuit. He said his response to Hale was “no.”
Under cross-examination, Fox acknowledged that he now considers Hale his enemy.
One murder solicitation count against Hale applies to Fox and the other to Evola, who was secretly taping his conversations with Hale.
The jury, which includes five African Americans and a Latino, heard more than a dozen tapes of Hale during the two-week trial. Some were of the short, veiled exchanges that prosecutors say were discussions of a murder plot. Others were laced with Hale’s racial slurs as he laughed about a 1999 shooting rampage follower Benjamin Smith, who targeted minorities in Illinois and Indiana, killing two.